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Behind the Scenes of Curious Critters: The Making of our First Online Course for Preschoolers

June 12, 2020

#Classroom Behind the ScenesCurious CrittersPreschoolers

“Storytelling is all about sequencing, which is also what programming is about.”

So we’ve just launched our first online course for preschoolers, in which kids ages 5-6 get their first taste of programming. Collaborating and co-operating from their own homes (for now!), kids’ll learn to use Scratch Jr – a visual programming language that introduces kids to computational thinking without requiring them to read – to code up an animated story inspired by the beloved kid’s classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Designing an engaging and meaningful online course is challenging – all the more when it’s for preschoolers! Here’s a peek into how Rocket Launcher Fongyee has taken what we’ve learned about designing learning experiences that kids have described as the happiest hours of their week – and shaping that into a new online product that gets preschoolers inspired and excited about programming and its relevance to the world.

Bite-sized (pun intended) classes for preschoolers with short attention spans

As most parents of preschoolers can attest, kids ages 5-6 have shorter attention spans – all the more so for online classes which require greater concentration and effort. While our offline camps for preschoolers run for 3 hours with regular breaks, we knew that in an online class – where both offline and online distractions are aplenty – that just wasn’t gonna fly unless extensive parent participation was involved.

With that in mind, we’ve make things bitesized and palatable for kids: with shorter daily sessions lasting 45 minutes, we can’t rule out the possibility that parent supervision might be needed for occasional tech support. But we think this is the best bet for both happy parents and kids!

Weaving offline activities into the online experience

Just like how some adults find doodling during meetings beneficial to their concentration, the same is true for preschoolers for whom sensory engagement can hugely aid learning. That’s why despite this being an online course, Fongyee (who also happens to be a trained artist!) was excited to incorporate offline craft activities into each session.

Besides keeping the preschoolers’ hands busy, these non-screen activities reinforce programming concepts and teach kids more about caterpillars in the process!

Code as a vehicle to for problem-solving

We like to say that at Saturday Kids, kids don’t just learn to code, but code to learn. That might sound trite, but at the end of the day we’re not about hothousing preschoolers to be future software programmers. What we want kids to take away from Curious Critters is how programming concepts can help them understand the world, and consequently use that knowledge as a tool for problem-solving.

As Fongyee explains: “We’re already using programming sequences every day. Our daily routines follow a sequence, the life cycle of animals and insects follows a sequence, stories follow a sequence. Event triggers mirror cause-and-effect in real life, and recognising patterns helps break down problems so we can solve them more easily.”

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Curious Critters: Telling Stories Together with Code runs online this summer for kids ages 5-6 with no coding experience. Multiple slots are available – find out more here and book a spot to introduce your preschooler to the wonders of the world through code.